I’ve been a bit stuck on what to make next since the new year. I keep looking between my fabric stash and sewing sketchbook, sighing and dithering. It’s a bit of a battle between picking projects that I find challenging and interesting to sew, and what I actually like to wear. Those two criteria often seem diametrically opposed unfortunately, as I’m constantly seeking new sewing challenges, but basically live in simple shapes and fabrics. To that end, I’m rather pleased with this simple cotton dress that I made leisurely last weekend. It did end up presenting quite a challenge: not in the actual construction, but in designing it to fit into my everyday wardrobe without getting carried away with unwanted details.
Challenge the first to surmount: shock horror, it isn’t made from my beloved jersey. I had a gift voucher for The Village Haberdashery and chose this ‘Waterfront Park’ quilting cotton as I love the colour and print. I wouldn’t usually make a frock from quilting cotton but this stuff is super nice, with quite a bit of cross-grain stretch and a good drape which makes it suitable for garments. It doesn’t even crease as badly as I was expecting during a day’s wear.
I learnt from my 2013 review that I do not wear non-stretch dresses on a regular basis, so how else to make this work for me? – choose an easy elastic-waist shape rather than try to do anything too structured and fitted, like the Belladone or Elisalex I first considered. I used Salme Patterns’ Kimono dress as a basis, but altered it quite a lot. I cut the skirt and bodice together as single pieces (front and back) and omitted the facings, meaning the dress is just two pieces. I cut more of a scoop neck (a bit too wide, bra straps tend to peek out), flared out the skirt by an extra inch or two at each side, shortened and rolled back the sleeves, and took it in at the armpit as it was looking a bit batwing. It isn’t really the same pattern at all after all that, ha.
I was really set on keeping the design simple, simple, simple to make sure it stayed everyday-wearable, so resisted the urge to add any little details like pockets, collar or pleats that would tip it into fussy. I stuck to this until right to the end, when I was rooting through my sewing box for some bias binding to finish the neckline and came across the grey metal zip, unused from my biker coat. I can’t resist a chunky zip detail, so sliced my dress right up the front and sewed it in. The zip was a touch shorter than the length I wanted so it looks a bit weird that it ends above the hem, but I can deal with it.
Otherwise I’m dead pleased with this dress and I think it will definitely be in regular rotation. I even wore it yesterday, my birthday, for drinks and dinner. It’s just as easy to wear as a knit dress, so I’m going to look out for more sweet quilting cottons that could be used in a similar way.
Following on from this, I think one of my missions for this year is to draft my perfect day dress that can be made up in either knits or wovens. This was a good first stab, but I would do a couple of things differently next time:
1. Pockets. I keep reaching for them on this dress! I want to learn how to draft curved hip yoke pockets as I find them more interesting and flattering than side seam or patch ones. Then add them to everything.
2. Sleeves. Kimono sleeves are comfortable to wear but can look a tad sloppy, especially in more rigid fabrics. I would experiment with raglan or regular set-in sleeves.
3. Waistline. I like an elasticated waist, but they can also look a bit lazy and not drape well in stiffer cottons. Could try semi-elasticated (flat-fronted, elastic in back), smocked or drawstring instead.
4. Other details. A keyhole at the back neck? Chest pocket? Peter pan collar? Loads of scope for variations once the basic shape is sorted.